April exports of U.S. pork and beef were below the volumes recorded a year ago, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Through the first four months of 2016, both pork and beef exports were steady with last year’s pace in volume, but fell 9 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in value.
Pork exports totaled 188,324 metric tons (mt) in April, down 6 percent from the large volume reported in April 2015. Export value fell 9 percent to $466.7 million. For January through April, pork exports were 722,645 mt valued at $1.77 billion.
April exports accounted for 26 percent of total pork production and 22 percent for muscle cuts only, down from 27 percent and 24 percent, respectively, last year. For January-April, these ratios were roughly steady with last year at 24 percent and 20.5 percent. Pork export value averaged $49.83 per head slaughtered in April – down 6 percent from a year ago but the highest in 11 months. January-April export value averaged $45.73 per head, down 9 percent.
Beef exports totaled 88,190 mt in April, down 4 percent from a year ago, while export value fell 13 percent to $481 million. Through the first four months of the year, beef exports were 343,176 mt valued at $1.84 billion.
April exports accounted for 13 percent of total beef production and 10 percent for muscle cuts only, each down about 1 percentage point from last year. For January-April, these ratios were down slightly from a year ago at 12.5 percent and 9.5 percent. Export value averaged $252.42 per head of fed slaughter in April – down 15 percent from a year ago but the highest of 2016. January-April export value averaged $245.56 per head, down 16 percent.
“Although volumes were lower year-over-year, we did see encouraging signs in the April export results,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “While the European Union continues to be the dominant pork supplier to China, U.S. pork is achieving growth in the China/Hong Kong market despite significant market access barriers. For U.S. beef, improvement in Mexico and other Western Hemisphere markets was a very positive development. USMEF has worked closely with the retail and foodservice sectors to promote underutilized cuts and overcome our price challenges in these markets, and those efforts are definitely paying dividends.”
China/Hong Kong bolsters pork exports; Canada, Central America also higher
Pork exports to China/Hong Kong continued to build momentum in April, reaching 52,288 mt – up 66 percent from a year ago and the largest in more than four years. Export value was up 56 percent to $96.8 million. This pushed January-April exports to 176,519 mt (+78 percent) valued at $330.1 million (+54 percent). All suppliers continue to ship larger volumes to China to help meet its current supply deficit, and combined China/Hong Kong imports set another new record in April at 267,450 mt, up 53 percent from last year.
Exports to Canada increased 7 percent in volume (15,685 mt) in April and jumped 6 percent in value ($64.9 million). Through April, pork exports to Canada pulled nearly even with last year in volume (63,195 mt) but remained 6 percent lower in value ($239.1 million).
Driven by strong performances in Honduras and Guatemala, Central America is a bright spot for U.S. pork again in 2016. April exports were up 17 percent in volume (5,457 mt) and 25 percent in value ($13.3 million), while January-April exports increased 22 percent (20,948 mt) and 13 percent ($48.9 million), respectively.
For Mexico, the leading volume market for U.S. pork, April exports remained below last year in volume (53,413 mt, -9 percent) but increased 1 percent in value to $93.1 million – a 2016 high. Through April, pork exports to Mexico were 10 percent below last year’s record pace in volume (213,360 mt) and 14 percent lower in value ($355.9 million).
April pork exports to Japan and South Korea were well below last year, although April 2015 was a big month for exports to both markets as shipments began to normalize following the first-quarter backlog in the West Coast ports. Japan’s April volume fell 29 percent to 32,826 mt, with value down 24 percent to $126.7 million. Through April, exports to Japan were 127,808 mt (-15 percent) valued at $489.9 million (-11 percent). April exports to Korea fell 45 percent in volume (12,097 mt) and 49 percent in value ($31.1 million). January-April exports to Korea were down 35 percent (to 51,251 mt) and 46 percent (to $129.4 million), respectively, from the large totals recorded last year. Domestic production is rebounding in both countries, but U.S. pork is gaining back market share in Korea (36 percent, up from 30 percent), and Japan’s chilled imports of U.S. pork have been increasing following the disruptions last year (69,952 mt, +32 percent year-over-year and up 3 percent from the same period in 2014).
Beef exports rebound to Mexico, Central/South America
After a difficult first quarter, Mexico was the leading volume destination for U.S. beef in April at 20,534 mt – up 19 percent from a year ago – while value increased 11 percent to $89.5 million. For January through April, exports to Mexico were still down 6 percent in volume (69,450 mt) and 16 percent in value ($308.9 million).
Led by larger volumes to Chile, Colombia, Panama and Honduras, April beef exports to Central/South America increased 19 percent in volume (3,035 mt) and 33 percent in value ($14.4 million). This pushed January-April exports to the region ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (11,437 mt, +3 percent) and value ($54.6 million, +5 percent).
April beef exports slowed year-over-year to most Asian markets, although this was due in part to the large April 2015 shipments that followed the West Coast port labor impasse. Overall, U.S. beef continues to gain competitiveness against Australian product in Asia.
In Japan, April export volume fell below last year’s level for the first time this year, but exports were the largest in eight months at 20,481 (-9 percent). Export value was also down 9 percent to $122.2 million, but this was also the largest total in eight months. Through April, beef exports to Japan were up 3 percent from a year ago in volume (73,322 mt) but down 8 percent in value ($422.7 million). U.S. exports of chilled beef to Japan have rebounded strongly this year to 30,604 mt, up 37 percent from a year ago and 4 percent above the same period in 2014.
Beef exports to Korea were 2 percent lower than a year ago in volume (10,953 mt) and fell 8 percent in value ($67.2 million). Driven by a 42 percent increase in chilled beef (6,537 mt), January-April exports to Korea remained 17 percent higher in volume (45,591 mt), though value fell 2 percent below last year’s pace at $272.2 million.
Exports to Taiwan increased 27 percent in volume (3,276 mt) and 6 percent in value ($25.3 million) in April, pushing January-April totals up 22 percent (to 10,910 mt) and 4 percent (to $91.7 million), respectively.
Hong Kong was the one key Asian market in which April beef exports fell sharply in both volume (6,487 mt, -39 percent) and value ($39.9 million, -48 percent). These results pushed January-April exports lower by 5 percent (to 36,543 mt) and 26 percent ($213.6 million), respectively.
Lamb exports up from last April’s low totals
April exports of U.S. lamb were the smallest of 2016 at 639 mt, though this was still up 26 percent from the low volume reported last year. Export value was $1.6 million, up 30 percent. For January through April, lamb exports were 19 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (3,315 mt) but still down 8 percent in value ($6.1 million).
Exports to leading market Mexico were up 25 percent in volume (2,691 mt) through April, while value increased 5 percent to just under $3 million. Bermuda continues to reemerge as a strong destination for U.S. lamb, while other promising markets include Panama and Chile. Near the end of April, U.S. lamb also regained access to Taiwan for the first time since 2003.